On December 3, Razer announced its teeny-tiny Tomahawk gaming desktop would finally be available to consumers after first revealing it at CES 2020. It’s built on Intel’s NUC 9 Extreme Compute Element, which contains the processor, memory, and SSD storage in a single module. That means it’s kind of like the Easy Bake Oven of gaming PCs. All you need to worry about is inserting the graphics card and you are ready to fire it up. For anyone nervous about building a PC scratch (it’s not that bad!), or anyone who doesn’t have the time, it’s a fantastic little alternative. Building a PC isn’t the most physically accessible thing either, and frankly there should be more of these NUCs for that reason. But Razer’s Tomahawk is only accessible to those with deep enough pockets, and the spec-list is underwhelming.
Razer has two Tomahawk models: one with an RTX 3080 and one without. The one without is $2,400 and comes with an air-cooled Intel Core i9-9980HK, a 512 GB PCIe NVMe primary storage, a 2 TB 5400 RPM HDD secondary storage, 16 GB DDR4-2667 MHz DRAM, a 750W PSU, and an unpopulated PCIe slot so you can put in whatever GPU you want. The Tomahawk with an RTX 3080 Founders Edition is $3,200 and come with all the same components that I listed above.
That makes the RTX 3080 Founders Edition on its own $800, which is $100 more than what it sells for on Nvidia’s website or at Best Buy. So not only would it be cheaper for you to buy the base Tomahawk and RTX 3080 separately (assuming you can even find one), but Razer is selling a PC with a last-gen laptop processor, with not even a terabyte of primary storage, a secondary storage hard drive with average speeds, and RAM with a less than ideal operating frequency for more than what it would cost to build your own. (Technically the laptop processor is last-last-gen, since 11th-gen Intel-based laptops are starting to hit retail shelves, but they are not gaming processors.) As we head into 2021, these kind of specs don’t cut it for that price.
Compared to Intel’s NUC 9 Extreme Kit I reviewed earlier this year, the $2,400-plus price made more sense then. Yet a lot has changed in the PC market in under a year. Looking at Intel specifically, both 10th-gen desktop and laptop processors launched, and Intel announced its 11th-gen desktop CPUs would arrive sometime early next year. So why hasn’t Intel swapped out the 9th-gen laptop processors in its NUC kits for a 10th-gen? The Core i9-9980HK launched in Q2 2019, and Intel’s NUC 9 Extreme Kit came out around the same time the Core i9-10980HK launched, so it’s understandable that the 10th-gen didn’t make it into the kits at the same time, but there’s a lot less of an excuse now.
One of the nice features of the NUC included with the Tomahawk is the ability for anyone to swap out the CPU. That’s a great move—except you still have to spend thousands of dollars on one and then immediately spend more money and upgrade the CPU. Including a 10th-gen CPU in the Tomahawk would make the price more palatable, because it’s compatible with up to DDR4-2933 MHz DARM instead of only DDR4-2666 MHz DRAM, and has a slightly faster clock speed, up to 5.3 GHz verses 5.0 GHz.
One of the only things that take makes sense about this build is the 750W power supply. Sure, the RTX 3080 can draw up to 350W of power, but the Intel Core i9-9980HK only draws 45W, and the rest of the components don’t take up much power either. Nvidia recommends a minimum 750W PSU, and it’s always a good idea to go slightly bigger. Always maxing out your PSU load decreases the life of your PSU.
The current GPU shortage also complicates things. A better option than getting this Tomahawk would be to build your own in Razer’s Tomahawk Mini-ITX, but GPUs and even some CPUs are hard to find right now. Not to mention there are plenty of mini-ITX cases that are cheaper. Pre-built PCs, like the Tomahawk, are the only sure-fire way to get your hands on a new graphics card at the moment, but not everyone wants or needs a pre-built PC.
The charm, and entire point, of the Tomahawk and Intel NUC kits are that you can bring your own GPU to the party. But if you can’t get the GPU you want, you’re stuck paying a pre-built PC premium. But please, try to find a better one than this, or be patient and keep hunting for the GPU you can pair it with.